I’m sure I’m not the only photographer to experience it. Picture the scene; it’s beautiful. The light is behaving superbly. Views that would normally seem mediocre, or even ugly, are suddenly transformed into priceless gems. The whole world is breathtaking. Every direction bathed in splendor, oozing palpable photogenic charm.
But you don’t have your camera.
It happened to me today. Despite my best laid plans, my day took me a lot longer than I expected. So, instead of being home during the golden hour, as I thought I would be, I in fact found myself stuck in my car without a camera.
The frustration I experienced, at first, was appalling. I cursed the fact that I’d deviated off my original route to pick something up for my dad, as this had cost me longer than I wish to remember after finding myself stuck in solid traffic for over an hour. I then cursed the fact that I do not own a Sat Nav, which meant that I’d got myself ridiculously lost near the center of Bristol earlier in the day, despite repeatedly assuring myself that I knew exactly where I was going. I then cursed myself for leaving the camera at home in the first place, when I knew I’d be driving through a very beautiful part of the country at some point in the day.
But all this, of course, at 7pm on a gorgeous, golden, camera devoid evening, was totally futile. And after some time, I had a revelation.
Some of the best things I’ve seen and felt in my life are just memories now. I haven’t got any pictures. All that is left of those brief, extraordinary moments, is a few electrical pulses in my head. And that’s actually rather wonderful.
Take tonight; it was the first time I’d heard Radiohead’s ‘Reckoner’. I was so spellbound by it that I played it over and over and louder and louder until my ears and emotions were entirely saturated. It made my skin tingle and tears collect in my eyes. For mile after mile all I could do was listen and repeat.
Add to this that I was, for many miles, the only person driving through the Wye Valley as the trees glowed ochre and the river reflected perfect doubles of the plants along its meandering banks, as flying herons caught the low sunlight on their bellies and turned pink, as wood pigeons darted between the trees, as fish nipped at the flies dancing above the water and as the river rippled and bubbled past Tintern Abbey and two boys paddled their canoe through its imposing reflection. I was surrounded by aesthetic charm.
Even if I had had a camera with me, I could never have captured the feelings I was experiencing at that time; the sound pulsing through me and sense of movement, wonderment, joy, sadness; as if I was somehow transcending my usual mortal limits and was no longer just a woman in a car but something else, experiencing a transformed reality of acute sensibility.
It probably sounds daft. Even writing it I feel a little silly. But it is how I felt. And it was amazing.
And, had I had a camera, I would have been distracted. I would have stopped numerous times. My focus would not have been so much on what I was feeling, but rather on what I was seeing. And even though the landscape was wonderful, if I had focused on it too much what I experienced tonight might not have happened at all; I may never have slipped into that sublime moment in time, unencumbered by my camera and wonderfully free.
So, here’s to memories. Not those we print but those that stay with us regardless, delicately wrapped up in the confines of our minds.